Papua New Guinea


With the effects of  global warming and climate change now becoming more and more evident,  people worldwide have become acutely aware of  the intimate  relationship between the  person  and his or her natural environment.
            But ordinary Papua New Guineans are   struggling   to maintain that balance in their  own small way as  large corporations supported  by the government exploit resources at the expense of the people and their  environment.    For years,  both local and international groups have campaigned against  environmental damage  with relative success.  In Papua New Guinea,  several  community based groups continue to argue that  the “environment” and  conservation  shouldn’t be seen from the western context.
We belong to the land.  The land doesn’t belong to us.
Michael Kasuk    a community leader  from  the Upper Ramu river  in the Madang province –  says   environmental damage   caused in the name of large scale development  and higher tax revenues has serious consequences for  the Ramu people. To them  it means    cultural genocide  and, literally,   the death of future generations.
            “The government and   companies must recognize this  fact,”  he says.  “This is not a fight against new development.  It is about   our environment: Our land, our bush and our river. Because our very lives are connected to  the  land, the bush and the  river.”
            Like many other traditional communities in Papua New Guinea,  people of the   Ramu  have  a  well   developed calendar of food gathering and   ceremonies  based on   seasons  and  river patterns.   But the Ramu –  with its  tributaries  in the highlands of Papua New Guinea –   is being slowly killed by large scale development up river.  Sediments  from  mining in Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands   eventually end up  in the Ramu.  Oil palm development   near the Madang-Morobe provincial border is also becoming a major concern.  The Ramu also faces  a more immediate threat from two new mines:   one operated by Canadian Company  – Marengo and the other by the Chinese owned MCC.   Soil erosion partially caused by construction work   at the Chinese owned  Ramu Nickel Mine is also  finding its  way into  a river used by more than 200 thousand people.  
However, very little has been said  about the  long term effects of large scale industries   in the upper reaches of the Ramu. Few people who live along the river  realize that  there are several new developments   scattered along the Ramu’s tributaries which stand to affect their lives.
“ The initial signs of sedimentation are evident,”  says Steven Malai, an elementary  school teacher in Sepu village in Ramu. “And we expect more damage to happen.
            “There  hasn’t been any proper awareness  on the negative effects of mining upstream.  When company officials came,  their focus was on how much money the government was going to make and they said: “

you won’t be harmed.”



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